Saturday, June 11, 2011

How To Be The Church (You Tell Me!)

Vieux Montréal 1889. Église presbytérienne St.Gabriel's Church of Scotland, rue St-Gabriel.photo © 2009 Philippe Du Berger | more info (via: Wylio)
A few months ago Brett McCracken wrote an article for Relevant Magazine asking why so many young evangelicals are leaving the Church. Throughout the article (which he wrote in between his numerous blog posts drooling over Terrence Malick movies), McCracken basically suggests it's all because of our generation's rampant individualism. While there might be some truth to that, here's the reason why I think so many young people are leaving the Church:

We do a really crappy job of being the Church.

Let me give you an example. McCracken's right when he says there are a lot of young evangelicals who have a "me first" mentality, but that's only half of it. In my own experience I've seen whole families that treat the Church like it's only something you do for an hour every Sunday and that's it. They get into their nice little polo shirts and khaki pants (or if you're a girl, a blouse with open-toe shoes), sit in the pew, sing the songs, listen to the sermon, take communion, and then when it's over they go straight home where they eat their Sunday meal and then watch football (because nothing says "keeping the sabbath holy" like watching men grope and pulverize each other). Then it's the same thing next week, and the week after that, and the week after that, etc.

The problem is Church is more than just a Sunday ritual. In fact, if I'm reading my Bible right, it's not something you do . . . it's something you are.

It's the Body of Christ (Romans 12:5).

It's being Jesus' ambassadors to a dying world (2 Corinthians 5:20).

It's about living in community and having all thing in common (Acts 2:44).

And yes, I do a crappy job of being the Church just as much as the next Christian.


So I want to ask you, my dear readers, how you and your local faith community try to be the Church. I want to know how you try to live like an actual family rather than a bunch of individuals who only see each other once a week. I can't wait to hear your answers.

Friday, June 3, 2011

How NOT To Witness

Jesus Preachingphoto © 2011 ideacreamanuela2 | more info (via: Wylio)A few summers ago I had a job selling shoes at an under-staffed (and overpriced) department store. The only good thing about the job was it was right across the street from Subway. One evening I was walking to Subway to get some dinner when a man with sunglasses and a cheesy smile came up to me. He looked like he was trying way too hard to be Tom Cruise in Risky Business.

“Hey there buddy,” he said as he enthusiastically stuck his hand out, “I’m Steve. What’s your name?”

“Uh, Travis?” I responded.

“Awesome! So, what’s up, man?”

"Well, I’m just on my break from work.”

“That’s rad! Where do you work at, bro?” I pointed to the department store. “Do you like it there?” Steve asked.

“It’s alright,” I replied. “I mean it, like, pays the bills and stuff.”

“Well, buddy, I was like you once. I was at a dead-end job where I wasn’t getting paid anything. But then a friend told me about Network Market, and now I’m making more money than I ever dreamed of. We’re having a job fair at Holiday Inn next Saturday, and I’d love to see you there.”

“What kind of job is it?”

“It’s a network of markets. There’s the future, bro! Here, take my card.”

“Um, okay. I’ll think about it.”

“Hey, man, don’t think about it—do it! This is your opportunity. See you there!”

Needless to say, I didn’t go. It sounded too fishy.

I mention this because I think this is the way a lot Christians approach witnessing: a formula. They talk about Jesus as if He’s some amazing new product or program that will cure all the problems of the world. Don’t get me wrong; I definitely believe that Jesus gets us through tough times. But I think it is way too easy to make Him sound like a product instead of the King of kings.

Either that, or they make God sound like a sniper with his rifle aimed at you.

I once saw a video on YouTube of Todd Friel witnessing to some teenagers. He started by asking the classic evangelical opening question, “Do you think you’re a good person?”

“Yeah, I guess,” the teens reply.

“Well, the Bible says we’re not. We’ve broken God’s commandments. Have you ever told a lie?”

“Yeah.”

“Then you’re guilty before God and deserve eternal punishment. But Jesus died for your sins.”

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe in sugar coating sin. But from my own observations, guilt-tripping people into following Jesus.

In fact, I don't think the Bible has any "how to witness" formulas. As many times as I've read the Bible, I've never seen Jesus walk up to a random person and ask, "Do you think you're a good person?" Neither is there anywhere in the Bible when, after some one asks, "What must I do to be saved?", Jesus says, "Repeat after me. 'Dear God, I know that I'm a sinner . . . '"

Charles Spurgeon once said soul-winning "should be the main pursuit of every true believer." While I definitely believe it should be at least one of our main pursuits (the others being feeding the poor, caring for the planet, speaking up for justice, etc.), sometimes I think we need better ways to win souls. And I'm not talking about making Jesus "relevant" by putting Him on a skateboard, or something hokey like that. I mean I think we should preach Christ in a way that He becomes something real, something beautiful, something that will make the soul leap for joy.

How do you do that? I don't know, yet. I'm still figuring that out.

How do you share your faith with others?